by: Ilse Strauss
Monday, 27 January 2020 | Lila was 8 years old when the German warplanes attacked. “We hid in potato fields and the German planes shot at everything that moved,” the 89-year-old Holocaust survivor shares the chilling details. Two years after surviving the German carnage, Lila fled her native Poland. Today she lives in Israel.
To commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released a video clip featuring Lila and her grandson, Lt. A., a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. The footage shows Lt. A. flying low over his grandmother’s apartment building while Lila stands on the roof peering at the silhouette that once rained down death on Jewish people hiding in a potato field, a machine her grandson now pilots to protects the Jewish homeland. Her arms are lifted skyward, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Today I saw my grandson in an Israeli airplane,” she weeps. “I feel pride because of him. I’m really emotional.”
Lila’s tragic tale had a happy ending. Millions of other tales did not. Today is the annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that transcends borders and religions as the world remembers the terrible genocide in which an estimated six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered.
On January 27, 1945, the Red Army Russian forces reached the Auschwitz–Birkenau extermination camp in Poland and opened the gates to the largest Nazi killing center in Europe. The Russian forces found only 4,500 people inside. Ten days before the Red Army came, the Nazis sent nearly 60,000 starving prisoners on what became known as Death Marches, grueling treks for miles on end in extreme temperatures. Nearly half of those who marched through the gates of Auschwitz at the Nazis’ command did not return, perishing from exposure and exhaustion, their bodies depleted from years of malnutrition and illness.
Some 1.1 million people—90% of them Jewish—died at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators in Auschwitz. The camp has since become a symbol of the Holocaust, representing the depths of evil, cruelty and deprivation. In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27 as the International Day of the Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust and today, 75 years later, the date continues to echo as a clarion call to remember that which was lost.
This year, the State of Israel, Yad Vashem and the World Holocaust Forum joined forces to host dozens of world leaders at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem last week Thursday for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum. Entitled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” the forum served as a reflection on the largest manifestation of hatred against the Jewish people in history to ensure that the horrors of the past are never repeated. With top dignitaries from 49 countries—including US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Charles from Britain and German President Frank Walter-Steinmeier in attendance—it was the largest-ever gathering focused on fighting anti-Semitism.
The list of speakers included representatives from the US, Russia, France, the UK and Germany, the victors of World War II and Germany—the perpetrator of the Holocaust. Speaking on behalf of the people of Israel was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Auschwitz and Jerusalem: An abyss—and a peak. Auschwitz—extermination. Jerusalem—revival. Auschwitz—enslavement. Jerusalem—freedom. Auschwitz—death. Jerusalem—life,” Netanyahu said. “Seventy-five years ago, our people—the Jewish people—emerged from the largest killing field in the history of humanity. The survivors do not forget anything: the helplessness, the endless suffering, the flames and the smoke, the bereavement and the loss. But they also remember, with deep gratitude, the day of liberation, the entry of the Red Army into Auschwitz, the immense sacrifice of the allies, soldiers and peoples alike.”
The prime minister continued. “It must be said: for the 6 million of our people, including 1.5 million children, the gates of hell were broken into too late. Too late. And therefore, at the foundation of the revival of the State of Israel is one main imperative: there will never be a second Holocaust. As the prime minister of Israel, this is my supreme obligation.”
According to Israel’s Holocaust Survivors’ Rights Authority at the Ministry of Finance, there are currently roughly 192,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel, with 14,800 survivors passing away in 2019.
The report from the Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that only 102,000 survivors—nearly half the current number—will still be alive in 2025. The number is expected to fall to a quarter or a paltry 53,000 by 2030.
Bridges for Peace provides regular food parcels filled with all the makings of nutritious meals to nearly 23,000 needy Israelis every month. Many of these are Holocaust survivors, who struggle to make ends meet, keep the heat on during the cold, wet winter months and put wholesome food on the table.
Bridges for Peace wants to extend that hand of love, support, physical sustenance and friendship to these precious survivors who have suffered such terrible cruelty. But we can’t do so without your help. Would you please consider giving a generous donation to our Food Program to ensure that we can put nutritious food on our Holocaust survivors’ tables?
Posted on January 27, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, January 27, 2020)
Photo Credit: Ted Eytan/flickr.com
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